I had a playlist of Christian music videos playing on my computer while I was cleaning my house. I saw a couple of pictures flash on the screen of Jesus on the cross. A particular video had scenes from the movie “The Passion of the Christ.” I stopped and watched for a few minutes, both sick and beyond grateful for the suffering Jesus endured for me. I didn’t know my son had been watching the video behind me until he came up to me a few minutes later with a stricken look on his face. He looked ready to cry so of course, I asked what was wrong. He said, “Mom, I didn’t know that Jesus got beat up that bad. I didn’t know it was so bad for Him. I didn’t know He went through that much for me.”
“Mom, I just didn’t know.”
Tears came to my eyes. Yeah, I don’t think any of us really know.
Every time I think about the suffering Jesus went through, even if I drudge up every scenario possible, I still fall short of what He actually experienced. My human mind cannot comprehend the horror of it. Honestly, I don’t want to most of the time. It's too much for me.
But I think it's good to make an attempt at contemplating His suffering, especially this time of year. It’s good to stop and be still, to think about how much it cost Him, and to be amazed about how much He must love us.
I used Isaiah 53 to break Jesus’ suffering into three arenas: emotional, physical and spiritual. Again, I know any attempt falls short, but it helps me to process what He endured better. I hope it helps you too.
A Suffering of the Heart:
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. - Isaiah 53:2-3
I'm pretty sure Jesus wasn't voted prom king at His school. They were clueless that He was actually King of Kings.
In all seriousness, He was "despised and rejected". He was "familiar with suffering". Suffering was normal for Him; He experienced it often.
Do you ever feel like that? Do you ever feel like an outcast, like you don't belong? Did you ever feel like that growing up? I had times as a kid where I felt that way – and I still do. We all have times when we feel rejected and alone. Oh how I wish I would have been more aware in my childhood of how much my Savior can totally relate to my feelings...He is a Savior who sees my pain. He chose this painful way of coming to earth so we don't have to feel alone. He is familiar with our struggles, because He has been there.
Jesus' closest friends ran away in fear and hid when it mattered most. One of them sold Him out for thirty pieces of silver. Peter said he never even knew Him three times. Jesus understands all too well the pain of betrayal and rejection.
I think Jesus was incredibly lonely at times. I find that oddly comforting. The Son of God can relate to me. He understands my pain perfectly, because He was willing to come down here, fully God and fully human, and has experienced it for Himself. When doubts come about His love for us, all we need to do is look to the Cross to be reminded of just how deep His love runs for us. He gave everything.
A Physical Suffering:
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. - Isaiah 53:5,7
Pierced. Crushed. Oppressed. Afflicted. The words make me wince. I have read about the scourging that Jesus experienced, before He ever got to the atrocities of the cross. The purpose behind scourging was not only to cause unimaginable pain, but to humiliate the person as well. It was belittling, degrading and demeaning. David McClister writes:
The instrument used to deliver this form of punishment was called in Latin a flagellum or a flagrum. The flagellum was a whip with several (at least three) thongs or strands, each perhaps as much as three feet long, and the strands were weighted with lead balls or pieces of bone. This instrument was designed to lacerate. The weighed thongs struck the skin so violently that it broke open. The church historian Eusebius of Caesarea recounts with vivid, horrible detail a scene of scourging. He says, “For they say that the bystanders were struck with amazement when they saw them lacerated with scourges even to the innermost veins and arteries, so that the hidden inward parts of the body, both their bowels and their members, were exposed to view.” (1)
This makes my stomach turn. How would the soldiers have felt if they knew they were torturing God?
My husband Michael and I had the privilege to go to Willow creek Community Church in Chicago (way back in 2004) to watch the pre-screening of the movie, "The Passion of the Christ," by Mel Gibson. I still remember it so clearly. Mel Gibson was actually there, being interviewed about the film. I thought I was prepared to watch the movie, but I wasn't. The scene where they scourged Jesus was almost worse than watching the scene where He was crucified. I felt physical pain as I watched, and very sick to my stomach. And yet I know it still fell short of what He actually experienced. We just cannot comprehend. I have watched the movie several times now. It never gets easier, kinda like sitting on a tac. It's sharp and uncomfortable.
I found this verse tucked away in Isaiah 52: Just as there were many who were appalled at him- his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness - Isaiah 52:14 (emphasis mine).
There are no words to respond to that kind of suffering. It’s so humbling.
A Spiritual Suffering:
... and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. - Isaiah 53:6
...yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer...- Isaiah 53:10
I also have to think of Satan’s role in all this. I’m sure he was there throughout, taunting and tempting, trying to get Jesus to quit before His mission was completed (isn’t that what he’s always doing to us too?). The spiritual attack on Jesus had to be crazy intense.
Jesus was alone as He died (other than Satan attacking Him). No one could do this for Him. He was the only perfect sacrifice. Even His Holy Father had to turn away from Him because of the sin heaped upon Him. I have to believe that was the worst part of all for Jesus. His Father had to turn away. Jesus took all the sins of the whole world - past, present, future - onto Himself. He actually became sin:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. - 2 Corinthians 5:21, (emphasis mine)
Do we really understand the magnitude of what He did to save us? No, I don't think we can. But I believe it’s good to try, to ask God to give us eyes to see and a heart that’s open. Easter is always a good time for reflection, for remembering.
Jesus chose us again and again. He did not have to do any of it. After all, He is God. He could have said no.
But He just kept saying yes.
The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life-only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father. - John 10:17-18
He said yes to me on the cross. He said yes to you. He says yes to us every day. There isn't a moment that goes by that He isn't loving us beyond what we can understand. We are chosen by Him and not rejected. We are His first choice every time.
His love doesn't make any sense. It isn't rational. That's why it’s so awesome. He loves you and me with a crazy, wild, makes-no-sense, grace-filled kind of love.
Oh, and He didn’t stay in the grave.
Praise the Lord, He is risen and He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
Friends, I pray you and your loved ones have a blessed and reflective Easter.
Jesus, we are in awe of You. Grateful falls short but there are no words to say thank you. We do not deserve Your love or your mercy, and yet you have freely given us both. Thank you for saying yes to us again and again, and for continuing to say yes to us every day. May we see a glimpse this Easter of the suffering You endured for each of us. Give us understanding, in whatever way we can grasp it, of your great love for us. We love you and we give You all the glory and honor this Easter. Amen.
(1) (Ecclesiastical History, Book 4, chap. 15). Truth Magazine Vol. XLIV: 1 p 11-12 January 2000.
(Taken from a post I wrote at Easter 2 years ago)
If you are an imperfect wife, mom, daughter, or friend, struggling to stay focused on God in the craziness and find joy in the heartache, then we have something in common. I am a recovering perfectionist and daughter of the King, slowly learning to fully trust the One who sees me just as I am, and is already pleased. I’m so glad you are here.